Career Information for Becoming a Clinical Assistant

Mar 22, 2019

Learn how to become a clinical assistant. Find out more about what they do, the education and training required for employment, and what the career prospects and earning potential are.

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Career Definition for a Clinical Assistant

Clinical assistants generally provide laboratory and clinical support to physicians, nurses, and laboratory technicians. Clinical assistants may perform diagnostic lab work like chemistry, hematology, and urinalysis testing on collected patient samples as directed by supervisory personnel. Clinical assistants can also provide prep services and limited patient care, like setting up examining rooms and taking patients' medical history. In most cases, clinical assistants work in doctors' offices and clinics, although they may work in hospitals or laboratories as well.

Education Certificates and diploma programs available
Job Skills Phlebotomy, interpersonal skills, communication and computer knowledge
Median Salary (2017)* $32,480 for medical assistants
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 29% for medical assistants

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Clinical assistants complete certificate or diploma training from a community, vocational, or technical college, which usually takes about a year. Some clinical assistants may be certified through a professional organization or association, depending on their skills, abilities, and interests. Clinical assistants study specimen collection, handling, and processing. They also study anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, computers, and ethics.

Skills Required

Clinical assistants need phlebotomy skills in order to collect specimens from patients for testing. Good clinical assistants also possess solid interpersonal skills, communication skills, and computer skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

Clinical assistants can look forward to a generally positive career outlook. According to research conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), there is expected to be a marked expansion in the number of doctors' offices and outpatient clinics in the next few years, so there should be an increased need for medical support staff like clinical assistants. The BLS estimates that employment growth for medical assistants will be 29% from 2016-2026, much faster than most career fields. In May 2017, the BLS estimated the median annual salary for clinical assistants, also known as medical assistants, to be $32,480.

Alternate Career Options

You might also choose these other options in healthcare support:

Dental Assistant

Like clinical assistants, dental assistants also work as support staff in dental offices. They may perform some clerical or patient care tasks, such as booking appointments, handing instruments to a working dentist, and maintaining office records. The scope of permitted dental assistant responsibilities can vary by state; in some states, dental assistants may also perform limited tasks on patients, such as applying fluoride, sealant or topical anesthetic, or polishing teeth. Job qualifications vary by state; in some states, on-the-job training is all that's required, while in other states, an accredited 1- or 2-year postsecondary education program is required. Professional certification and licensing may also be required. The BLS predicts that jobs for dental assistants will increase 19% from 2016-2026; the median salary for this occupation was $37,630 in 2017.

Medical Records and Health Information Technician

People in this career organize and manage healthcare related files. They may work with paper or electronic healthcare documents and review files for accuracy, insurance coding, or the applicability of patient data to medical registries. Medical records and health information technicians also have a role in storing and retrieving medical records, and ensuring that confidentiality of data is maintained. Common paths to this job include a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program. Professional certification is also available. According to the BLS, jobs for medical records and health information technicians are expected to grow 13% from 2016-2026. The BLS also reported that in 2017, people in this occupation earned a median wage of $39,180.

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